USACE Rejects Port of Cleveland Effort to Protect Lake Erie’s Water Quality

US Army Corps of Engineers Rejects Port of Cleveland Effort to Protect Lake Erie Water Quality

By: AJOT | Feb 04 2016 at 10:57 AM | Ports & Terminals

Port request, supported by bipartisan Congressional coalition, would have modified federal policy to prevent open lake dumping of potentially harmful sediment

Cleveland, Ohio – The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) continued its campaign to dump potentially harmful sediment into Lake Erie today when it rejected the Port of Cleveland’s request to modify federal policy to prevent the practice. The Port’s request was made as part of the USACE’s annual report to the U.S. Congress as mandated by the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA).

Each year, the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), which oversees the USACE, submits an annual report to Congress, and must consider proposals from the public on modifying projects. Those projects include the Cleveland Harbor Project, where the USACE is responsible for dredging the Cuyahoga River channel to keep the harbor deep enough for waterborne traffic and commerce.

As part of the WRRDA process, the Port petitioned to modify the description of the Cleveland Harbor Project to prevent sediment dredged from the Cuyahoga River from being placed in the open waters of Lake Erie. Traditionally, sediment has been placed in confined disposal facilities (CDFs) due to concerns about contamination – recent testing still shows trace levels of the toxin PCB and other harmful substances present in some sediment, which accumulates in the food chain, including Lake Erie fish. The Port’s suggested amendment would have required that Cleveland Harbor “shall not include open lake placement of dredged material unless such open lake placement is approved by the State of Ohio under the provision of Section 401 of the Clean Water Act.”

The Port’s WRRDA request was supported in a letter by a bipartisan group of six US Congressional Representatives from Ohio – Bob Gibbs, David Joyce, Marcy Kaptur, James Renacci, and Tim Ryan, and was led by Congresswoman Marcia Fudge. The Ohio General Assembly also recently passed a law banning all open lake dumping by 2020, and the Port’s request to modify federal policy would eliminate any potential conflict between state and federal policy.

“We are disappointed but not surprised that the Army Corps has rejected this request because at every step they have ignored the legitimate concerns of Ohio’s policy makers and citizens in what seems like an obsessive quest to dump unsuitable sediments in the lake,” said Will Friedman, Port President and CEO. “This denial of our request flies in the face of the science and the law, which are clear, and once again places at risk the health of Lake Erie and literally thousands of Ohio’s jobs. We are disappointed that the Corps is not focusing on a long term solution to maintain commercial navigation in Cleveland Harbor.”

Friedman stated that the Port will continue to press the issue through other means, which may include the pending lawsuit brought by the State of Ohio and the Port against the USACE. In the meantime, the Port will also continue to implement its cost effective and safe sediment management plan, which it developed to help eliminate any need for open lake dumping.

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